Student Leader: Layin’ Down the Law – Drafting a student bill of rights

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Remember when hall passes were required to go anywhere in high school? Back then students had few rights. Fortunately, things are a little different in college.

Colleges and universities around the country establish specific rights on paper, such as the freedom of expression and the right to assembly. For many, the thought of a student bill of rights just makes sense.

You Gotta Fight for Your Rights
For Sarah E. Howard, assistant dean of students at Purdue University in Indiana, having a student bill of right is logical since it mirrors how our nation set its rules. “Just like our country’s Bill of Rights, it sets a foundation for students to know what their rights are,” she says. “Students, likewise, have a responsibility to act civilly  in the university community by upholding the code of student conduct, which is university policy and procedure.”

In addition, Howard says that getting used to guidelines is important for when students enter the workplace after college. “Every company and organization has some policy that establishes what the rights of the ‘people’ are in that organization. A university is no different,” she says.

Along with common right such as a right to information and protection of privacy, Purdue’s student bill of rights guarantees the “freedom to inquire, to publish, and to exchanges findings.” Students at Purdue also enjoy the right to distribute literature without prior approval and can bring speakers and sponsors on campus.

Millersville University in Pennsylvania has a student bill of rights that not only defines different liberties pertaining to discrimination, governance, and teacher-student relationships but also outlines specific responsibilities for each right. The idea is that with every freedom, there is also certain behavior expected from the students.

An example of this is in article seven that deal with off-campus behavior. The right says that, “Students must be free from university restrictions at off-campus activities except in those cases where violations of state, federal, or local ordinance occur.” However, the student bill of rights at MU also says that, “…individuals must be responsible for their actions without expecting university assistance in off- campus matters.”

Robert Thomas, vice president of student affairs, says that it’s important t specify what right students have at an institution. “Students aren’t always aware of what right they have,” he says. “We need to spell it out to them. Spelling out responsibilities is also part of that.”

Not Just a Number

The University of Connecticut’s student bill of rights includes freedom from discrimination, freedom of association, freedom of expression in the classroom, and the right to dissent. In addition, students have the freedom of publication and the right to privacy and confidentiality of records. UCONN also allows students to hold memberships on the board of trustees and other committees to voice the student perspective.

Having a student bill of rights in place is crucial at large institutions, says Derek Olson, UCONN speaker of the undergraduate Student Senate. “I think it’s very important to have because when you get to universities the size of ours, students feel like they’re just a number that’s simply shuffled in and out in four years,” he says. “Although it may simply be a piece of paper, it carries so much importance against injustices like discrimination.”

Olson say that his student bill of rights contains the most important right of all: freedom of expression. “It’s important to be able to voice your opinion on things that you don’t agree with because change doesn’t happen by just sitting in your dorm room,” he says. “Student journalists are protected under the freedom of publication liberty that gives student press editors and managers the right to develop editorial content that’s free from censorship.

Grade “A” Guarantees
Some school documents concentrate on guaranteeing a high-quality education and preserving integrity. Georgia Institute of Technology’s Student Bill of Academic Rights includes the right to “transfer core curriculum within the university system” and a mandated right to receive syllabi for each course taken. Georgia Tech students are also guaranteed the right to a timely review session before exams.

Do It the Right Way
On the other hand, some students feel that more than just a bill of rights is needed to ensure that they’re treated fairly. “Schools need a student is that states add those rights to their state education codes,” says J.R. Castledine, a graduate student at the University of North Texas. He says that UNT has a document called the “Student Rights and Responsibilities” (SRR) in place, but that it’s inadequate.

“The SG constitution doesn’t even mention student rights, and the student body has no formal way to influence the SRR,” he says.

Currently, Castledine and other students are working on a student bill of rights that’ll be protected by a new form of SG. Then, they’ll lobby to have those rights added to the Texas Education Code.

Having rights down on paper ensures equality and fairness for all student.

Contact Howard at, Thomas at, Olson at, or Castledine at See Millersville University student bill of right at

–Ashley Cisneros
Ashley Cisneros is a co-founder of Chatter Buzz Media, an Orlando Internet marketing firm that helps companies and organizations engage with their target markets through inbound marketing via the Internet. Chatter Buzz Media, which won the Social Madness competition for the Orlando small business market, is a full-service digital marketing firm specializing in website design, search engine optimization (SEO), social media marketing and content creation. Prior to founding Chatter Buzz, Ashley worked as a newspaper reporter, magazine editor, technical writer, marketing manager, public relations practitioner and freelance journalist. To see Ashley’s content writing, visit You can also reach Ashley on her Google profile.

By | 2017-04-28T07:32:48+00:00 March 4th, 2004|Categories: Blog, Samples|Tags: , , , |0 Comments

About the Author:

Ashley Cisneros Mejia is a journalist, entrepreneur and marketer. She began her career as a newspaper reporter and later as an editor at Florida Trend business magazine. Ashley has worked as a professional freelance writer since 2009, as a technical writer, marketing manager, and public relations practitioner. She also founded two digital marketing agencies in Orlando. Named one of Orlando’s 40 Under 40 and honored by the Women’s Executive Council of Orlando for achievements in media and communications, Ashley earned a B.S. in Journalism and an M.S. in Entrepreneurship at the University of Florida.

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